Friday, November 14, 2008


This tree is very connected to the earth. The wind has bent it but not uprooted it.

Have you ever felt disconnected?

It was a day in 1978 my father had been to England to look for work I remember him walking up the road of our council estate we had been watching for him as we knew he had been away for a few days. It was great to see him he looked tired but happy. He had trained for this job and spent a long time looking for the perfect place to take his family and he felt he had found it with the offer of a job in England. This is when a searching sense of being disconnected was born in me. This moment of knowing we were leaving was when I felt I had lost something. Not my roots because your roots are your roots they will always remain, I will always be Irish but at the age of 8 my roots became disconnected from the land.

I remember getting in my dads morris minor in 1978 6 of us! No rear seat belts a bit of a tight squeeze but we all got in. This was the disconnect, the restlessness, the never quite feeling at home that grew at this point; a 24 hour car journey to Essex was the beginning!

This was what messed with my head, unsettled me, put me in a restless frame of mind. Of course there was adventure a sense of newness and it wasn’t like I was on my own. This wasn’t some great Joseph Conrad type quest into the Heart of Darkness this was a family, a close family, a good family journeying to another part of the United Kingdom, I had 3 brothers so it was never like I had no friends or no one to play with in this new land, we had each other.

Siblings are important when you feel lost they are constants in your life I can’t understand why siblings fall out, you will know them all your life they will always be around.

Life in England was different from Ireland for starters everytime they had a cup of tea they just had a cup of tea! no biscuits, no sausage rolls or tray bakes just tea. Now I wasn’t a tea drinker but I noticed the distinct lack of food that went on the coffee table if you where ever around someones house for a drink.

Then of course there were our accents, I never knew I had an accent until I moved to England. Children are cruel, if you don’t understand it, make fun of it or mimic it, this is what happened to us along with some name calling and being referred to as paddies. We had moved and by default we had become different, sometimes I didn’t mind being different but most of the time I just wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. I started to look back not in an unhappy way but just with a sense of I wish I could return, it wasn’t until we returned for a holiday a year later that all our Irish friends said we sounded English! Now we were stuck, the Irish felt we sounded English and the English felt we sounded Irish. No wonder I started to feel disconnected. No one likes being called Paddy, well unless it is your real name, but as a derogatory term it didn’t fill me with much joy. Thank fully two of my brothers were very close to me in age so we could at least beat the name callers up. But this didn’t always work sometimes the bullying at school was horrible but we didn’t tell our parents as they had enough on their plates, we just got our heads down and got on with it. Living with a sense of restlessness and disconnectedness.

I don't know why I am writing this I just sat down this morning started typing and this is what came out.

Maybe it's because we all want to belong we want to remain connected.


Hannah said...

It's nice to read something from the heart:) England is famous for its bullying nature but it is also famous for its humour and ability to laugh at itself, or at least it used to.

Now that everything is so PC, people are less likely to be bullied but I think there is also less humour, and more narcissism. People are less able to laugh at themselves.

Bullying at school is a horrible thing but you survived it and I bet it has added to your character and not damaged it. Maybe if you now viewed it as just the way the English are and not as something personal, it might help. The English love labels but they label themselves as well. e.g. 'I am such an idiot!'

I bet in say the US where no-one would be so cruel as to call you a Paddy, you would be less likely to hear people put themselves down.

john heasley said...

Well I will always be around I suppose, and before you make the joke I will probably also always be round. As for Hannah, above, Bullying is even more prevalent in England now I believe, I have children and run a youth club, I see it. You can't ask someone not to take bullying personally, bullying is personal, not excused as an english trait. The bullying is born out of arrogance and ignorance.

twiggie120 said...

I love this blog Brian, I didn't know that you were Irish either. Its funny that we customize to our surroundings, yet in that surrounding you felt unsafe and unsure. Maybe in some earthly divine moment God knew that He needed to inbreed that sense of home being in the heart, maybe that's part of why he sent you to Ibiza... good read! good lessons!

Mie said...

I hate bullying! I can see it in adults and in work places too though. One place I worked in, people were constantly bad-mouthing this one guy, it felt horrble to have to hear/listen to such things. Why do these things go on?

Anyway, when I started blogging I first called it "Being Connected" :) I had moved back to Finland and to a smaller place and wanted to remain connected with the rest of the world :-) then it became Radical Discipleship (??? :D) for a short while until it's current form for the last couple years, it's just been Called By Name, as I am. :-)

Nice post!

Hannah said...

John, I too was bullied but no-one ever hit me as I never showed my fear. I just stood there and acted normal. Ok, one girl tried to hit me but her arms were too short and couldn't reach me while I had my hand on her head....very funny!

My nephew back home does tell me the school buses are now 'controlled' by a large group of boys who sit at the back of each bus and no-one is allowed to look at them, talk to them or sit near them. Everyone is terrified of them.

I was really talking about silly name-calling, probably done while laughing. A bit cruel and intimidating. I imagined that was what Brian experienced and I do believe that is or was more prevelant in England. It is due to bad manners and ignorance as you said but I do believe it's character building but then I feel difficult experiences are always character building. I'm not excusing it. It also helps to pity the culprits rather than hate them and to feel grateful you are/were not one of them.

I was really thinking of England as a whole being more PC with less good old fashioned British humour and people less able to take it on the chin and therefore less casual, thoughtless name calling.

As for what my nephew tells me when I see him, I fear for his life and not his future happiness as obviously the back seat boys sound like an altogether different type of bully in a league of their own.